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   Chapter 3 OUR FIRST NIGHT AT THE BEACH.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 7535

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


By the time Mr. Tucker and Miss Cox arrived, late that evening, Tweedles and I felt as though we had been keeping house for years. Mrs. Rand had the cottage in apple-pie order and had taken herself off, very much concerned for fear we were not going to have a good supper for "that there so-called 'paw'." But we did have a very good one by careful division of labour. Dum set the table and looked after the butter and ice water; Dee attended to the coffee, baked potatoes and salad; and to my lot fell the broiling of the fish and toasting of the bread.

We had had a long and eventful day and very tired and hungry were the three of us when the trolley from Norfolk finally arrived with Miss Cox and Mr. Tucker, also tired and hungry and very dirty after a trip on a soft coal train. Miss Cox had come all the way from the mountains of Albemarle on a local train and she seemed to be about all in; but she declared that supper and bed would make her over and we must not worry about her.

"It would be a pretty piece of business for me to come down here as a chaperone and then be a baby," she said.

"Well, a baby is about as good a chaperone as one could want," laughed Mr. Tucker; "and now, Jinny, I am going to insist upon your being a baby for a few days until you get yourself all rested up. We appreciate your coming to us more than we can tell you and one and all mean to wait on you."

"We do, indeed, Miss Cox, and I bid to bring your breakfast up to your room," said Dee.

"And I bid to unpack for you," put in Dum.

"And I-I-I don't know what I will do for you, but please let me help some," I begged.

"Oh, people, people! Don't be too good to me or I'll cry," and Miss Cox gave a wan smile. She had been tutoring all during the month of June, beginning just as soon as her labours were over at Gresham; and having had no rest at all she was in a state of exhaustion pitiable to behold. I believe her nerves would have snapped if it had not been for that timely trip to the beach.

"Well, I call this a pretty good supper for three girls just turning sixteen to get up all by their lonesomes," said Mr. Tucker, giving a sigh of complete satisfaction as he got out a cigar for an after-dinner smoke.

"Page did all the real cooking," tweedled the twins.

"Why, Dee, you cooked the potatoes and the coffee, and Dum did a million other things that are much more tedious than cooking. I love to cook but I hate the scullery part." Then I was sorry I had said that because they utterly refused to let me help wash the dishes and I felt like an awful shirker.

Miss Cox was escorted to her sleeping porch which she pronounced "Heaven." It presented a different appearance than it had in the morning when poor Sleepy had been concealed in the soiled linen like a modern Falstaff (not that we seemed much like the Merry Wives of Windsor).

"Now stay in bed in the morning so I can bring your breakfast up to you," begged Dee.

"And don't dare to unpack yourself, but let me do it," demanded Dum.

"I hope the mantle of Sleepy will fall on you, Miss Cox, and you will slumber as peacefully as he did," said I, lowering the striped awning to keep the early morning light from waking the poor, tired lady.

"Well, good night to all of you. I only hope I can get undressed before I fall asleep."

It was a wondrous night, and since the girls would not let me help with the dishes, I accepted Mr. Tucker's invitation to stroll on the beach with him while he finished his cigar. How pleasant the night was after the terrible glare of the day! For the first time I began to feel that the beach was going to be what I had dreamed it to be. The sun had set but there was a soft afterglow.

"And in the Heavens that clear obscure,

So

softly dark and darkly pure,

Which follows the decline of day,

As twilight melts beneath the moon away,"

quoted Mr. Tucker. "I am afraid you are pretty tired, too, Page. You do not seem to have your usual spirits. I bet a horse I know what it is! You are disappointed in Willoughby Beach."

"Oh, please don't think it, Mr. Tucker--"

"I don't think it, I just know it. You must not feel bad about it. Everybody always is disappointed in it at first, and then in a few days wonders how he could have been anything but in love with it. You question now how anyone could be contented without trees or grass, and in a week's time you wonder what is the good of trees and grass, anyhow. I know today you felt like old Regulus when his captors cut off his eyelids and exposed him to the sun. You'll get used to the sun, too, and even scorn a hat as Tweedles do."

I was really embarrassed at Mr. Tucker's divining my feelings as he did, but it was no new thing, as he often seemed to be able to guess my thoughts. I, too, often found that I had thought out something just as he was in the act of giving voice to it. I had been desperately disappointed in the beach. The great stretches of unbroken sand, the cloudless sky and a certain flatness everywhere had given me a sensation of extreme heaviness and dreariness; but now that the blessed darkness had come and I no longer had to scrooch up my eyes, I began to feel that it was not such a stale, flat, unprofitable place after all. And it was certainly very pleasant out there, pacing up and down on the sand with Mr. Tucker, who treated me just like one of his daughters in a way but at the same time gave me a feeling that he thought I was quite grown-up enough to be talked to and listened to. He had called me "Miss Page" at first, but now that he had dropped the "Miss" and I was just plain Page I seemed more of a companion to him than before.

Tweedles soon came racing out, having finished the dish washing.

"We didn't wipe 'em, but scalded 'em and let 'em dreen. Dee broke two cups-I broke a saucer!" exclaimed Dum. "It's entirely too lovely a night to waste indoors."

"So it is, but it is also a mighty good night for sleeping and I think all of us had better turn in pretty early," said Mr. Tucker.

"Oh, not yet, Zebedee!" tweedled the girls, "we are not a bit sleepy. You are always wanting people to go to bed before they are ready." And with that they flopped themselves down on the sand, Dum with her head on my knee and Dee with hers on her father's shoulder and in one minute they were fast asleep.

"Now what are we going to do with these babies, Page?"

"I hate to wake them but they will be sure to catch cold," I replied. And so wake them we had to and lead them stumbling to the cottage and up the steps to the east porch, where they were with difficulty persuaded to go through what they considered, in their sleepy state, to be the unnecessary formality of undressing.

I had been sleeping pretty well for almost sixteen years but after that first night at Willoughby Beach on a sleeping-porch, I knew that I had never really realized what sleep meant. No matter how many windows you may have open in your bedroom, it is still a room, and no matter how much you may protect a porch, it is still out-of-doors. We were in bed by nine o'clock and we were asleep almost before we were in bed, and while my sleep was perfectly dreamless I was, in a measure, conscious of a delicious well being, a sentiment de bien être. All through the night I was rocked in this feeling and I was then and there reconciled to the beach, flatness, glare and all. A place that had such sleep-giving powers was one to be loved and not scorned, and forthwith I began to love it.

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